Syrian president Bachar al Assad spoke yesterday, and he did not say what his PR people had led the world to believe he would.
Assad, who followed in his father’s footsteps 11 years ago in becoming head of the Baath Party and president of Syria, did not lift the draconian 48-year-old state of emergency or try to accommodate the demands of the demonstrators who have been on Syrian streets for more than a week, mostly in Daraa in the south near Lebanon.
Instead, Assad said that they had been duped by outsiders seeking to overthrow the government, adding that the unnamed outsiders are trying to destabilize
’s Sunni Muslim majority and the Alawite minority, of which the Assad family is part and through which it has based its 40 years of iron-fisted rule. Syria
To add insult to injury, Assad said he had been too busy with economic and international issues to bother with eliminating emergency rule.
If this sounds like recent events in
, don’t be fooled. It is much more like Bahrain . Assad’s one-party rule, based on Arab nationalism of the worst kind, has spread terrorism into Lebanon by supporting Hezbollah, and weakened Palestine by supporting Hamas in Gaza. It is not for nothing that Iraq Israel has several times entered southern Lebanon to clear out Hezbollah enclaves, thereby delivering to Syria the message that Syrian terrorism will not be tolerated on ’s northern border. We also remember that during the early stages of the Israel Iraq war, the US warned Syria to stop sending terrorists into or face being bombed. Iraq complied. Syria
Assad’s security forces are pervasive and no one expected that democracy demonstrators had any chance of beginning a confrontation with him. But, they have, and now, Assad has answered, saying, in effect, that they will be put down, by force if need be, in the name of Syrian stability.
“What he said today, it will not stop the movement,” said Haitham al-Maleh, a leading activist. “There is a tsunami going across the Arab world, and it will cover
, too.” Syria
Malath Aumran, an exiled Syrian cyber-activist, said, “He is totally ignoring our demands in the streets, like any other arrogant dictator.”
Assad said the government had ordered security forces not to open fire on the Daraa demonstrators, but the confrontation escalated to gunfire killing 60 marchers because of “chaos in the streets” incited by “the plotters.”